Doing a PhD at a 'non red-brick' university


Lyds, you said you'd applied, have you been accepted? I'm reading it as you're in the process of applying, so have framed my answer as such..
By the time you reach PhD level, the reputation of the university is of little consequence. Whatever you do, DON'T choose a PhD programme solely because of a university's overall repuation. THES rankings are based on lots of factors that are irrelevant to a PhD (such as 'A' level grade entry, overall staff/student ratio, etc)

The most important things to consider without exception are your potential supervisor's ability, reputation and his/her PhD supervisory record, and the *department* reputation - not the uni as a whole.


Boy am I going to be unpopular for saying this.

I think its naive to say reputation doesnt matter in research. On the contrary the reputation of a university is very important for future career progression.

Most of the higher ranked unis have higher RAE scores because they publish more research in high impact journals. This means researchers at these places attract more funding and can produce even more research, and rise in their fields. At lower ranked "teaching" unis, staff spend more time teaching, less time researching and they suffer at the RAE by attracting less government funding and grant money.

Take a look at the journals in your field. Where do the authors tend to come from? Are there more from UCL or Thames Valley University?


People are right to say "supervisors are important" or "individual factors count". However, there are a lot of indirect benefits that factor in too. Higher ranked unis often have better facilities and good libraries (due to more money), have world class experts in them who give seminars/ lectures and are a good source of contacts for finding future work.

This is quite snobbish, but the sad truth is that employers and people in general ARE snobbish. Unfortunately, faced with two fairly similar candidates most employers will gravitate towards the person that came from a more prestigious uni.


**I think its naive to say reputation doesnt matter in research**

That's not what's being said.

I take your point BHC, about RAE stuff, impact factors, older unis being more research led, etc. This is largely true, but if newer institutions are offering fully funded PhDs (as the thread starter has seen), then they too are attracting research money. OK, a new uni as a whole might not generate as much research income as its older counterpart. But if the subject area that you want to work in has a good dept, has funding, can support its students adequately, has a good core team of staff, and happens to be in a new uni, I think it's more naive to discount those factors at the expense of choosing a nominally prestigious place that fails to tick the other boxes.


well, my uni has at least two of the world experts in my field, and probably know 90% of the top people in the same field in other countries, to say you have studied with them would be probably more important than the uni they are at at the moment, I suppose it might depend on the area you are in, but personally I would go for the top people over the uni in my field, as long as it was where I felt comfortable. Don't go anywhere you don't like, it won't get any better than your first impressions !!!


a real scientist never holds prejudice when examining someone's work; in industry.. well, it helps if you get good background, but a PhD should be enough to get into the interview anywhere.. but try to create more chances for you to get developed, usually prestigious universities have more of that kind of opportunities.


'Thames Valley University'

You mocking my Uni? All the people at Reading couldn't believe it when they turned it into a Uni.. now when I say 'I went to Uni in Reading, I get 'Ohhh TVU?''

Hah.. I'd have to disagree with you slightly I'm afraid BH.. Whilst some people employers do think redbrick - nonredbrick matters... a lot don't even know anything about the degree you studied.. so the Uni is even less of a bother.

I've been up against people from Oxford who didn't get through and in the same group were people from Swansea Institute.. employers seem to be much more focussed on goddamn A levels and the level of your batchelors than the Uni you went to..... Just my experience, anyway..


If you look at the PhD completion rates (from the HEFCE report), generally the redbrick universities do pretty well, and the post-92 universities do badly. Although it's hardly a suprise that universities that do more research get more people through a PhD.


@ PC Geek. I am not sure what you are getting at. I never said "no one from TVU gets anywhere". I made an oblique reference to TVU regarding publication rate and impact factor compared to UCL. It could have been any other Russell group vs Post 92 institution comparison.

The OP asked "Will I be looked down upon by other academics because I've never been to a red brick?". Some will pay no attention and look at the individual, but (and this the point I tried to make) some WILL be snobbish about it.

Are you saying that academic snobbery does not occur? Or that the OP is unwise to raise this issue in the first place? Or that I am out of line in pointing out the factors I posted above?


As someone who helps shortlist people for our research team, I know that if PhDs are required, no one cares where it was done (Internet purchases excepted!) We consider candidates’ PhDs in terms of the relevance of their work. We're more bothered about the person's ability to undertake research (and if they've got a PhD, new or old uni, that’s pretty solid evidence). It's not productive to judge candidates on the basis of universities’ whole reputations.

Is someone's academic background is from new unis it certainly doesn't negatively influence our shortlisting. If you have a PhD, you can pretty much do what you want with it. BHCs observations are right, but I think are more relevant when you make career choices *post* PhD. (IE, if you want to err more on the research side, on older institution is better positioned to support you. If you prefer teaching and engagement with students, a newer place is ideal)


'Thames Valley University' doesn't sound too bad to me. The extremely academically challenged Blackpool and the Fylde College is lobbying (apparently quite successfully) the DoE for University status.


testing 123


testing 123


hie there



Noo.. I was being sarcastic, sorry.. I went to Reading Uni, not TVU - I meant that whenever I said I went to Uni in Reading.. I got 'What? TVU?' I'm *pretty* sure TVU don't offer PhD's.. but I could be wrong

No.. you're right.. snobbery does exist.. but I do believe it is few and far between - If you go to a Redbrick, will you have a better chance of gaining employment? yes.. probably.. but to what extent? I wouldn't imagine much..